After falling in love with India, its culture, its people and above all, its beautiful traditions - Alanna and her business partner Madeleine created Ayu. Built on the principles of Ayurveda in which scent plays an important role in balancing our mind, body and spirit, Ayu brings eastern traditions to the west. Grounded in the shared passion of both co-founders, Ayu as a business has grown very organically. Recently fulfilling a dream for the business, Ayu collaborated with Himalayan beauty brand Pahadi Local on a beauty capsule. We sat down with Alanna as she opened our minds to the wondrous ancient tradition of Ayurveda and how her passion led to Ayu.
Founder of Ayu, we love all of your scents, by the way. You mentioned the idea was dreamt up in India. Tell us how everything came about.
Madeleine (my business partner and co-founder) and I had frequently travelled to India and both shared a passion for Ayurveda after both having studied it. We were trying to figure out a way that we could bring our shared knowledge into practice. We knew we were onto something when we stumbled across so many beautiful traditional distilleries in India. Scent plays such an important role in balancing our mind, body and spirit as each and every scent has its own unique properties that directly affect our limbic system (the seat of the brain that holds emotion and memory.) We began playing around and ended up blending up our first scent, Souq, and from there the journey began.
Your business has taken off, in a very organic way. Tell us about the journey of Ayu.
We started Ayu in a very organic way and never set out with any concrete plans - we approached it very intuitively. The business grew as much as we could take on at each stage in our lives. We were both working in other fields at the time - I’ve worked in fashion PR for years and that took up a lot of space and energy. As the brand grew we both finally took the plunge to dedicate most of our time to it, to see where it led. We’ve never put pressure on ourselves to be somewhere by a certain point and it’s worked for us.
You studied Ayurvedic medicine, which is so incredible. What are your predominant doshas, how do you work to balance them? My predominant dosha is Vata with some Kapha as well. I’m definitely more Vata though, which consists of the elements air and ether. When out of balance, a Vata is traditionally a little airy, hard to keep still, quite anxious and not the best sleeper. When I’m feeling like this, I’m always looking for ways to ground myself, or ‘bring myself back to earth’, with a regular daily routine, meditation, eating easily digestible, warm foods over raw foods, which can be very hard to digest. Getting to bed by 10 pm makes a world of difference for me, and I love having a regular massage as well. Oh, and regular swims at the beach are good for the soul - there’s something about being immersed in saltwater that feels like magic.
Your Ayurvedic studies have played a huge role in developing Ayu. Tell us about the role of scent in Ayurveda and how that assisted in developing Ayu.
The psychology of scent is very important in Ayurveda, with a multitude of flowers and plants being used for many centuries for different healing purposes. Ayurveda is based on the idea of creating balance in the bodily systems and uses a whole range of tools such as diet, herbal treatments, exercise and scent to help with this. Scents are really powerful as they travel to the olfactory bulb in the limbic system of the brain that controls emotions and memory. Smell is the most primitive of the senses, triggering a strong connection between memories, emotions and instincts. When blending our perfumes, we work with scents that we know help to ‘smooth out the rough edges’ and positively influence emotional, mental and physical wellbeing. Particular notes are known to produce particular effects on the body and from an Ayurvedic perspective, the aim is to balance each Dosha (energy) - Vata, Pitta and Kapha. To balance an airy, anxious Vata you would opt for grounding, warming scents - such as amber, patchouli, vanilla, sandalwood and frankincense. For a Pitta dosha, you would look towards cooling, sweet aromatics that are heat dispelling, nutritive and calming - such as rose, sandalwood vetiver, mint, ylang-ylang and jasmine. A Kapha type is best balanced with invigorating, energising and stimulating scents - such as bright citrus notes (think orange blossom, lemon, lime), camphorous or spice notes such as sage, bergamot, juniper, frankincense and clove.
Managing a business with international suppliers through covid must have been so difficult. How did you navigate through this period?
If anything, it brought out the real humanness of people and put everything into perspective. We had lengthy delays with production but it’s something that was completely out of our control, so we just had to go with it. Many of our suppliers went through immeasurable grief and loss, but the human spirit of some people is just so incredible.
You recently collaborated with Himalayan beauty brand Pahadi Local on a beauty capsule. Talk us through this collaboration and the products you developed together.
Our collaboration with Pahadi Local was honestly a big dream of ours. India is a country that we are so closely connected to, so to be able to collaborate with them and have our brand represented over there is really a dream come true. The whole ethos behind Pahadi Local is really inspiring as every ingredient they source locally from the surrounding Himalayan region of where they operate. All of the ingredients are extracted in the purest way to keep them as unadulterated as possible, utilising traditional techniques to do so. The range is a beauty ritual capsule, ranging from a face mist, face oil, scrub, body salt, mask and pure rose oil.
We know you are extremely passionate about advocating for recognition (to start with) of the traditional custodians of this land. Big question, we know but how do you believe we, as a nation, can work together to bring about change and forge a connection?
That’s such a huge question and I still have so much to learn. We could begin by recognising the Traditional Custodians of the land in the Australian constitution as a start.
We loved seeing you in Auguste. What was your favourite piece from the collection, how do you like to style it?
It would have to be the khaki Cyd Midi dress - it’s a super versatile style and also very flattering on the body. I wear mine with a chunky sandal and layer it up with some fine gold necklaces.